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How a theology of the ordinary informs Advent.

Last month, my husband Matt and I attended Eugene Peterson’s funeral in Montana. We studied under Peterson at Regent Seminary and stayed in close touch over the years. For someone who sold millions of books, translated into multiple languages, his funeral was a wonderfully ordinary affair: a small, local church with fraying red carpet, a local slightly-wet-behind-the-ears pastor who gave the homily, stalwart hymns, and a casket made by his sons.

The simplicity of the event represented everything Peterson taught Matt and me (and many others): Press into what God has already given us in the ordinary people we love, the ordinary church we attend, and the ordinary sacraments we have been given. These unpromising things will keep us rooted in Jesus, despite the temptations around us.

In his books, talks, and sermons, Peterson railed not against the temptations in the world but rather the temptations within the church. And the temptations are plenty. But the way to avoid these temptations, he said, is not to leave the church and all the ugly things about it but instead to stay close and be transformed by it. “The antidote,” he once pointed out to us in a letter when we were knee-deep in solitary ministry in Scotland, “is near the poison.”

One of the key poisons in the American church is the temptation to be extraordinary and visibly radical in order to avoid being “lukewarm,” which more often than not means living a faster pace of life and becoming worn out to prove your authenticity to Jesus (or to yourself).

We find many antidotes within our own ecclesial treasury that counterbalance this tendency. The church over the centuries has made saints of certain individuals precisely because of …

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